Saudi Arabia has joined a growing pool of countries interested in buying the Boeing CH-47F Chinook, US Army and Boeing officials have said, while the United Arab Emirates is also interesting in acquiring more.

The UAE has signed a letter of request for pricing and technical information on a possible buy of 16 of the heavy-lift helicopters, the army said. The letter is the first step in the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) process.

Saudi Arabia has also expressed interest in buying a similar number of aircraft, officials said, but the Saudis have yet to sign a letter of request to formally open an FMS case with the US government.

The UAE special forces currently operate several CH-47s acquired from Libya in 2003. The Libyans purchased the Chinooks in the early 1970s from Italian manufacturer Elicotteri Meridionali, now part of AgustaWestland. At that time, Italy built CH-47s for domestic and foreign markets under licence. Flightglobal's HeliCAS database lists the UAE as currently flying eight CH-47C+ transports and four F-model Chinooks.

Saudi Arabia represents a new market for the Chinook, if the deal is approved.

Boeing's CH-47F also is competing with the Mil Mi-26 for an order of 15 aircraft from India. The contract award could be announced early next year, but delays are possible.

Separately, the US Army has determined that the flight control system problem that grounded Australia's CH-47D fleet in early October was an isolated event. Australia resumed flying the CH-47D on 10 October.

A week earlier, a CH-47D was damaged after "porpoising" during landing manoeuvres.

Source: Flight International